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Return Address: Arrogance, MS 251

Chris DiBona, a man of many titles (Linux Community Evangelist, VA Linux Systems; President, Silicon Valley Linux Users Group; Grant Chair, Linux International) passed to us this reminder that for all the (occasionally legitimate) claims of standards compliance out of Redmond, subtly breaking standards in the name of "improvement" can be far worse than more blatant attempts. Hint: supplanting ASCII is a bad idea. (More below.)

Chris writes: " So here's an interesting feature from our friends at MicroSoft. They've decided that Outlook 2000 users by default really don't want to communicate with the rest of the world, preferring to communicate only with other OL2000 users.

Now, while I don't have any problem with people extending the content of an e-mail with attachments, i.e. sending html-ized version and v.cards, it seems downright stupid to make the default behavior of ol2000 to send it's e-mail only in MS's proprietary TNEF format.

Now, It's clear that they've had some support calls on this, as proven by this KB Entry. So that means that they caught some flak for it. But they haven't changed it.

Fun Quotes from the KB entry:

  • In addition to the receiving client, it is not uncommon for a mail server to strip out TNEF information from mail messages as it delivers them. If a server option to remove TNEF is turned on, clients will always receive a plain text version of the message. Microsoft Exchange Server is an example of a mail server application that has the option to remove TNEF from messages.

This means in essence that unless you are using a 'TNEF Aware' server -- like, say, hmm, MS Exchange -- you may not be able to read your mail. I may be reading a bit much into this paragraph, but it seems to me that this paragraph says 'if your friends can't get your email, it's their servers fault, not yours.'

And to take this the further, go join the EFF if you haven't already, step, suppose somone were to circumvent the protections on the TNEF format and write a program that could understand it, would you be liable under the DMCA section on anti-circumvention? Admittedly, I'd be surprised if MS took this route, but it's worth considering every single time you think about decoding proprietary formats. Does this mean strings is now a circumvention tool?

Anyhow, if there are any microsofties out there, do the right thing and cut down your support costs by making ascii the ol2000 default transmission behavior for text. And for anyone using Outlook 2000, you should switch to a program that your friends can actually recieve email from. Or at least shut off that option."

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Return Address: Arrogance, MS [IN PROGRESS]

Comments Filter:
  • It's not on by default in Exchange... rather it sounds like your Exchange admin is an idiot.
  • A quote from two stories ago:

    "It sounds like the patch is actually correcting a lot of issues, and while it's too bad that it breaks the mods, sometimes you have to do that to get things working properly."

    A quote from this story:

    "...subtly breaking standards in the name of "improvement" can be far worse than more blatant attempts."

    The fact that Microsoft doesn't make Quake and Id does doesn't mean that they should have different standards. Id did the wrong thing, Microsoft did the wrong things. Just because it's their first offence, so to speak, doesn't mean that they should be let off. They both screwed everyone over.

    If you're going to be critical, at least do it consistently.
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:34AM (#759189)
    Strange. I have several dozen users using outlook 2000, and other users using Eudora, Netscape, OL Express, and heck I use unix mail (pine etc...). ANd to boot, many versions of each.

    OL2000 seems to have no problem sending mail to others. And we are NOT using an exchange server that translates mail for people.

    Now there IS a problem, that may or may not be related, whereby some attachments sent in OL can only be read by other OL users.. but that usually has to do with RTF messages (using embedded objects instead of attachments or some such thing).

    For those that don't know, Outlook was really designed to be run with MS Exchange server. The server can be configured to handle mail translation for it's clients, so internally, an office can have the benefits of a more advanced(?) mail system (in an office workgroup sense), and externally, the world can get ASCII.

    NOt sure where the big problem is though...

    You know, I still hate MS, but after a few years in a larger network... I've come to realize that all MS tools are not bad, they are just generally used for the wrong things. This is partly (mostly?) Microsoft's fault. Saying 'using OL with exchange server provides an excellent messaging platform for your company' is very different than saying 'use outlook for mail, it rocks'. They want people to use their crap for everythingl.
    But some of it, if used in the way intended, can be useful to a large degree.

  • Chinese has something like 32 different vowel sounds, but Chinese text is ideogram based rather than phoneme based, so you can't easily compare number of "base vowels" in akmed's sense.

    There is a standardized way to represent Chinese phonemes in roman characters ("Pinyin"); it uses up to 4 of our letters to represent a single Chinese vowel.

  • Normally, at least with the recent /. flavor of threads I'd agree with you. However this time I think that this is worth posting. It's based on fact and has technical merit. The limitations of the product are being discussed without the usual MS sux rants and this is essentially the same style of thread that would point out limitations in Debian, BSD or WINE for that matter.

    This is the /. of old and personally I'm glad to see non-flaming objective threads that don't scream Lihnux is great and MS sucks never ending moose cock.

  • Fine, then go ahead and do that. The standards _do_ exist and _are_ becoming widely supported.

    First off there is the concept of a MIME encoded attachment containing the meeting information. Every email client I'm aware of supports MIME encodings. Second there is vCalendar which is a standard for ASCII encoding of appointment information. The funny part is that the standard was defined by (or possibly for) the Internet Mail Consortium of which Microsoft is a member!

    So here's yet again an example of Microsoft joining a standards body then refusing to adopt/comply with the standards espoused by that body! And people actually wonder why Microsoft is despised so?
  • However, there is still a fault due to the fact that Exchange servers are not configured by default to strip out "Outlook Rich Text" formatting back to plain text. This all severely predates Outlook 2000, or Outlook in general. The "Outlook Rich Text" format dates all the way back to the MS Exchange client that shipped with the original Win95 that was designed for MS Mail servers. Users of Exchange client for Win9x sending e-mail to the internet would often generate the same winmail.dat TNEF message that plaques the current clients.

    Microsoft Exchange client for Win95 severely predates all of Microsoft's internet efforts, so this is not a case of Microsoft trying to takeover the internet standards bodies as some slashdotters like to believe. It's just short-sightedness, and the ever-present anchor of backwards compatibility.

    At work, I've basically disallowed sending Rich Text (TNEF) messages to the internet (internally is fine), and only allow plain text or HTML formatted e-mails, since they can be fairly read by the majority of clients out there.

  • the idea behind slashdot is that we are collaboratively publishing media. its not rob and jeff's job to go through every article and vet it for content and accurracy, they do a cursory scan as gatekeepers, and from there it is up to us to respond, to do fact checking, to add information and technical knowledge that runs deeper then the "so-called experts" can provide.

    as you've been rated up to a 5, i'm going to assume that your expirence using outlook at least resonates w/ a few other people here, and maybe you are onto something.

    i'm also going to assume that people find your bombastic tone cathartic, and slashdot needs to spend more time refining its publishing model. kellan

  • I had this problem for several weeks, at my work, when they switched over from a Eudora(?) email server to Exchange. Suddenly I couldn't receive attachments with my Netscape client. I couldn't even receive attachments from myself. All I ever got, instead of any attachments sent, was a single attachment called TNEF.
    At first I did not make the connection between the server switch and my problem (I'm not much of a conspiracy theory fan) and thought it was my Netscape client that went off its rocker. Finally, after a few weeks of aggravation and getting angry at Netscape the sys admin unchecked a checkbox on the exchange server and my problem disappeared.
    Apparantly, the default behavior for Exchange was to take any and all attachments in emails going through it (all email, whether sent or received) and encapsulate them (for our benefit, of course) in the TNEF format.
    Lovely feature...
  • why doesn't someone make a client that interprets *text* as text and _text_ as text?
    They did. It's called Mutt.
  • Chris writes: "So here's an interesting feature from our friends at MicroSoft. They've decided that Outlook 2000 users by default really don't want to communicate with the rest of the world, preferring to communicate only with other OL2000 users.
    Chris needs to learn more about his mortal enemy. This is not "new" behavior, nor does he bother to accurately describe the behavior which actually occurs. The Exchange 4.0, 4.3, 5.0, Outlook 97, Outlook 98, Outlook 2000 and Outlook 10 client all basically work the same way with regards to TNEF and RTF.
    Yes it is possible to send to a user in RTF format... if the other user also users Outlook, this might even be a good thing. It's also possible to send to a user in plain text... which is generally a better thing, but the point is you can certainly decide what format to send a message in.
    I suppose he has the same concerns about standards when talking about the ability to send an HTML only version of a message in Netscape. Oh Crap! No plain text version that sounds like "subtly breaking standards in the name of improvement".... let's all start planning a campaign against Netscape NOW!
    Can DiBona point to a single server which exhibits the following behavior:
    This means in essence that unless you are using a 'TNEF Aware' server -- like, say, hmm, MS Exchange -- you may not be able to read your mail. I may be reading a bit much into this paragraph, but it seems to me that this paragraph says 'if your friends can't get your email, it's their servers fault, not yours.'
    No, I think not, instead he is just making shit up because FUD is fun. Or maybe he is just too lazy to do any fact checking and decided that since it's Microsoft it wasn't necessary to make sure he was right since everyone hates Microsoft.
    The Linux community is not well served by spokesmen who aren't capable of actually making an intelligent argument. There's no shortage of things which Microsoft does wrong, what kind of a dolt do you have to be to miss the mark so completely as he has here?
    Does Outlook have problems? Of course it does you stupid fuck. All software sucks. Too bad DiBona couldn't find one of the real problems with it to complain about.
    Any linuxsofties out there? Do us a favor and *whap* DiBona upside the head with a rolled up newspaper for being too stupid to actually fact check his rambling crap. Anyone wishing to discuss it further is welcome to stop by the Ask The Experts booth at the MEC in Dallas next month where I will happily debunk DiBona's spurious assertions for anyone not intelligent enought to figure out he's wrong on their own. CS
  • Notes is the same way... you just have larger messages because of lots of stuff crammed into the headers. People have done this on a personal level for years. I've been involved in mailing lists where X-HEADERS were added to aid procmail filtering and such.
    Solaris/FreeBSD/Openstep/NeXTSTEP/Linux/ultrix/OSF /...
  • In addition to the information listed above, the path to your personal folders file (PST) file and your logon name are embedded in the winmail.dat file. Although this data is not explicitly exposed to the recipient, if the recipient opens the winmail.dat file for editing in a binary or text editor, he can see the path and logon name. Note that no password information is revealed. To ensure that the path to your PST file or your logon name is not included in the winmail.dat attachment, use the steps in this article to send mail that does not include winmail.dat.

    This thing is handing off two bits of somewhat valuable information to the reader of the email. The location of the senders mail store on his local machine, as well as his logon name, either too his local machine, or his server. Now I wouldn't really know how to use that info, but I'm sure there are people out there who would.

  • His problem is with the fact that the default format is TNEF and that it's entirely possible that if you don't send your mail via Exchange server, other won't be able to read it.

    youre right...if someone decides to send me a message with a voting box, i wont be able to vote. we should all go to redmond with torches and sticks and demand that they use only plain text for sending voting boxes....sigh...


    Keyboard not found.
  • Depending on your approach, if you try to add any of your own attachments in the message (JPEG pictures, files, etc.), instead of making them separate attachments Outlook buries them in the TNEF attachment. So you get a text message that says: check out this neat picture, and no picture.
    This is presumably because Outlook takes that picture data and inlines it into its pseudo-HTML.

    I believe this particular "feature" breaks the spirit of the MIME standards, even if it is technically compliant.
  • Yes, but you do realise that the biggest potential market is going to pretty much collapse within my lifetime? The Chinese prefer male children, and they're only allowed to have one.
  • Tell me that that isn't a good slogan for M$.

    On a real note, ASCII or UNICODE (for non-Latin charsets) only, please. Most of the REAL WORLD uses text terminals to access the net and all your damned (BLINK) tags and (BOLD) and all that (FONT IS BIGGER THAN HELL) crap just doesn't cut it on pine or elm.

    (I use both, so no holywars posts, please.)

    Hell, I use virtual consoles and multiple non-priviledged users at a time on the portable (on a 14.4, no less!) to run several mail readers and Lynx.

    And emacs.

  • Howver, MS did create Outlook and they have the right to do whatever they bloody well want with it.
  • Ruling The World, One Moron At A Time

    My new sg!


  • For those that don't know, Outlook was really designed to be run with MS Exchange server.

    Outlook can be installed in either "Corporate or Workgroup" or "Internet Mail" modes. So it appears as if it was designed to work in stand-alone mode.

    As for the TNEF problem: I run Outlook in "Workgroup" mode, but only with the Internet Mail service installed, and I do not have this problem. (I did turn off RTF mail.)

    I haven't seen a TNEF or winmail.dat attachment in a few years, and when I did, it was the product of a misconfirgured Exchange Server (one that was trying to send RTF to the Internet.) So I don't think this is an Outlook issue at all.

    The worst thing about the situation was Microsoft's snotty technotes about how this problem could only be adequately solved if everyone upgraded to Exchange (we actually solved it by flipping a config switch). The idiot Exchange Admin had the same attitude, refusing to believe that Microsoft would ship a product with misconfigured defaults, and there must be something wrong with the rest of the non-TNEF-compliant Internet.
  • ASCII is an acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

    There's 225 million American, 5.8 billion other people on this planet, most whom don't speak English and don't write in modified, vowel poor, aplhabets.

    Can you say "ASCII is cutting us off from big potential markets?" Sure... I knew you could...

    Unicode will spread because it's NEEDED.

    Actually, sending ASCII is equivalent to sending text in the UTF-8 encoding of Unicode/ISO-10646, since characters 0x0..0xff are exactly the same in both encodings. UTF-8 is a widely accepted [cam.ac.uk] encoding of Unicode. Hence, using ASCII is transparently upward-compatible with Unicode, while using 8-bit encodings such as ISO-8859-x or Windows Code Page 125x is not.

    So when we have software that's actually capable of displaying the full range of UTF-8-encoded text, complete with character composition and correct bidirectional algorithms, then ASCII will just work.

    However, note that some folks don't like Unicode due to the Unified Han space. While Chinese, Japanese, and Korean writing systems all share a set of similar glyph shapes, the style of writing them differs among writing systems: there are styles that are recognizably Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. The actual glyph shapes, of course depend on the font that's being used. So, for example, if you have a document that contains text in both Chinese and Japanese, you have two choices:

    1. Pick one. Use either a "Chinese" or "Japanese" Unicode font to display the entire document. You might as well raise your middle finger to readers from the place you didn't pick.

    2. Use different fonts to display the Chinese section and the Japanese section. Suddenly you don't have plain text anymore, but a document that requires font metatext to travel with it. You might as well use the system of different encodings we have now, since that already works.

    In my humble but terribly insightful opinion, the differences between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean styles of the Han character space are equivalent to the differences between similar-looking characters in the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets, which do have separate characters for "Uppercase Latin letter A", "Uppercase Greek letter Alpha", and "Uppercase Cyrillic letter A" in the Unicode spec.

    But then, what do i know?

  • "Apply this rule"... vulgo Milgram experiment

    (Maybe you don't know or, alternatively, I am missing something --are
    you making a parody?--, the application of a similar, quasi- or non
    quasi syllogism has been at the heart of the Milgram experiment.)
  • They found a bug that would crash old versions of Netscape's email reader consistently.

    I had to upgrade Netscape because my wife got tired of certain people's emails doing that. It turns out that they also broke a bunch of production jobs for a friend because the header was not properly separated from the body. (Which is possibly why Netscape crapped out.)

    Oh, you didn't hear about it so this is a lie? No. First of all I understood the politics on Microsoft's part so I didn't bother to complain to them. And I know the people who were running it don't actually understand enough about how computers work to know why this was a bad thing, or why Microsoft wouldn't care. So I explained to my wife, got a more recent version of Netscape, and forgot about it.

    This is the "extend" part of Microsoft's embrace, extend, extinguish pattern.

  • Heh, I've already encountered a problem with how Outlook 2000 sends mail at where I work. Apparently, if you choose to send mail to someone in RTF format, a copy of the message itself (along with any attachments) is put into one big attachment called winmail.dat, that is nigh unreadable unless you have Outlook 2000 yourself or an Exchange server that's willing to translate it for you. I found out about this when our financial manager had problems receiving an emailed file from our parent company's controller, who claimed he didn't have problems sending the file to anyone else. It turned out that he was using Outlook 2000 in RTF format, and our financial manager was using Netscape Messenger... and I only learned that could be an issue from reading Bugtraq. It also didn't help that we're prolly the only one of the parent's companies that use qmail instead of Exchange server...

    Standards. They're a wonderful thing. Too bad MS has yet to learn that...
  • How many nationalized versions of EBCDIC are there? Seems like there are many, and extremely hard to get ahold of.
  • Netscape [netscape.com] has the answer, for those that don't know:
    Those attachments contain Microsoft Exchange's rich text information, encoding attributes of the message such as boldface, underlining, fonts, and colors. Exchange/Internet Mail puts these attributes into an attachment so that they can appear to other Exchange users on the Internet. The problem arises when people not using Exchange receive these attachments: instead of seeing a formatted message, they see a big chunk of UUENCODE data named WINMAIL.DAT, or a section application/ms-tnef if you're using MIME (which is what Communicator uses). These attachments contain only formatting and are not important to the message itself.

    For communicating with users of other clients, Exchange contains an option to suppress sending rich text information when mailing them. You may want to contact the person who sends these attachments, and ask them to turn these off for messages sent to you. To do this, they need to double-click on your address and uncheck the box labelled "Send to this recipient in Microsoft rich text format."

  • When Microsoft has a monopoly, actually it is.
  • I currently use OE for my email, but I am one of these people that as soon as I reinstall or upgrade OE I check to make sure that it's still sending in Plain Text, I hate sending HTMLmail...

    But, an alternative would be to develop (or use a currently developed) third party alternative to Outlook (my personal opinion on Outlook is it's just a email client on steroids with all the calender and extra crap it does), or just become used to the habit of manually checking your mail sending settings each and every time you upgrade/reinstall your software...

    I know it's a pain, but you only have to do it once...;)
  • \begin{rant}\begin{flame}{FULL}Get your head out of your ass. MS is breaking ASCII and RFC 822, Just try and read a comersal webpage without IE, notice all those lovely ?s they are MS fucking over ASCII and ISO Latin-1. isn't nice to know we are going to a world where a company dictats all modes of comunication? Just think about what will happen when the DMCA and the UCTIA get in full force there will not be an internet. Just think Right to read [gnu.org] and Letter from 2020 [osopinion.com] and tell us that this is the world you want to happen. The corret resonce to someone who does these things is a FULL FLAME respoce in hopes that either a they get with the standards or commit suicide. (virtual preferd but real aceptable.) \end{flame} A full diplomate discorse my also be usefull, take your pick. Breaking standand is a bad thing, actully MS should have bin given the INTERNET DEATH PENATLY long ago but alas they are too big. \end{rant}
  • "This design philosophy is at the heart of micros~1, and it's the reason ms isn't allowed in many server rooms."


    My experience has been that Microsoft is steadily marching into more and more datacenters. Over the last four years I've seen a half a dozen major sites convert from cc:Mail, Groupwise, and other products to a MS Exchange architecture. That doesn't even begin to cover the sites dropping Banyan and Novell for NT Server.

    Many of the conversion decisions do not appear to be made by the techies. The Microsoft sales engineers (yes, they engineer sales) are able to work some hocus pocus on management that makes it look like MS products will solve all their problems. My best guess on this has been the claim may work something like, "Well, you use Microsoft apps on your desktop. Naturally, everything will run much better if you are talking to Microsoft apps on the back end as well."

    Getting back to Exchange, it surprises me that noone has prduced a viable, open source equivalent to Exchange. There are some good concepts there. It's just the implementation that leaves a lot to be desired.

  • by downundarob ( 184525 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:40AM (#759217)

    If this format is actually technologically superior and it is documented extensively then: WHY NOT USE IT

    Because, for my money, its a waste of my money. Some of us outside the USofA are charged by the byte (or MByte where M=1000 bytes) for our internet traffic.

    So for me plain ascii is the cheapest.

    <P ALIGN="LEFT"><FONT FACE="Arial,Helvetica">"Hello Rob"</FONT></P>
    "Hello Rob"

    56 useless bytes in only one line of text that really do nothing to facilitate the communication do they? Imagine that mess for each line of the message (because MS still dont know how to craft good HTML). Furrfu.
  • by xeno ( 2667 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @05:31PM (#759218)
    Bzzzt. TNEF is used to encapsulate quite a few things, such as rich text formatting. In this manner, it competes directly with open standards (such as HTML) for formatting/layout of text and embedded/referenced objects within a message. Read the Exchange spec, or ask someone whose NDA has expired.

    Sure, you can configure the client to send ascii or html, but this should be the default behavior, not the use of a half-baked encapsulation format for proprietary garbage that provides no better functionality than existing standards (even at the time when TNEF was first proposed in the Capone/touchdown spec). This is classic Microsoft "do less with more" that serves to enhance their market share, and not the client experience. It'll be in fashion to beat up on them for this behavior as long as they deserve it.
  • Actually, if TNEF encoding is turned on at the client and the server (default setting), non-Outlook clients won't be able to see the attachments. In this case (TNEF on at the MS client and server, and non-Outlook recipient) you really can't see anything other than the plain text at the other end, and one incomprehensible TNEF encoded attachment.

    The funny part is that Outlook Express (OE) is even worse at receiving TNEF extensions than Netscape, Eudora, or other non-MS email clients. OE is hardcoded to hide the TNEF attachment, so all the OE recipient sees when you send a message with an attachment or formatting is the plain text.

    There is a program [fentun.com] that decodes attachments, but if you're using Outlook Express, it's still takes two or three extra steps per email to decode attachments.

  • What positive traits can we say about Chris DiBona's insight:

    - It brings in ad hits to slashdot.org

    Otherwise is reeks of technical ineptitude, an unfortunately uncommon trait amongst slashdot editors.

  • by YoJ ( 20860 )
    The quote says that if the server strips the TNEF from messages then the client still receives a plaintext version of the message. What's the problem again?
  • My company has its internal mail on an MS Exchange network, with everyone using Outlook 98 or 2000, except for me in Linux. Thus, I have considerable experience in this subject.

    Microsoft thought that everyone would like to have boldface, italics, etc. in their mail without having to use HTML, (because spacing is harder to control there, presumably). So, they invented a format to send formatting information.

    This is a registered MIME type, but if you don't have a Microsoft client, you can't read it.

    This would be no big deal if it stopped here. However, the TNEF format puts cute little icons of the attachments into the mail, which must be defined in the TNEF block. Furthermore, all of the attachments are encoded into the TNEF block as well.

    Thus, a typical message would say. "Hey dude, check out this attachment!". You would see an MS-TNEF attachment that you would be unable to open.

    There are several programs available to sort through the TNEF attachment and find the real attachments (which are just directly quoted inside of the TNEF). Search for tnef on Freshmeat.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:43AM (#759249)
    Microsoft has a page here [microsoft.com] that describes various symptoms of TNEF problems, as well as hwo to adjust various mail settings so you can turn of TNEF fromatting globally, per messsage, or per receipient.

  • While it may be true that on the Internet no one knows you're a dog, the corollary is that once they find out you're a dog they can dig through the archives to see every place you've publicly urinated.

  • The only languages that can comfortably be written with the repertoire of US-ASCII happen to be Latin, Swahili, Hawaiian and American English without most typographic frills. It is rumoured that there are more languages in the world.

    (Roman Czyborra [czyborra.com] on his page about ASCII [czyborra.com])

    I love that quote!

  • touchè! :)

  • This is great news. Every "standard" microsoft creates, and keeps closed, is more ammo for the government's lawsuit, and more frustrating for MS users.

    Why can't grandma sent her grandson mail at the university? Cuz Billy Borgware says so. Or, as he says, "they use legacy Sun servers, and your grandson is using a low value OS, (Linux/Mac/BSD/Beos/Amiga whatever).

    Who's going to be pissed off? Poor old Grandma, who's going to vent about it to everyone in her frickin' knitting group, the Gray Panthers, whatever. Her Grandson just sighs, cuz he knew all this was coming years ago.

    Of course, she can read *his* emails just fine, because federal criminals didn't write that originating client or the intervening server.

    So this is good thing. Every microsoft attempt at controlling the net, and refusing to cooperate with the W3c (and other standards committees) is going to eventually boomerang and smack them right in the nuts.

    Go, Billy Borgware, Go!
  • For what it's worth: ASCII isn't an 8 bit format -- it's 7 bits. All of the stuff above 127 is not ASCII.


  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:44AM (#759269) Journal

    Whenever I run accross a new piece of software, I always like to apply this rule. It requires you to use your imagination a little.

    Imagine that you are sitting in a room full of vacuum tubes at the moment the first modern digital computer was assembled. After the initial glee, the engineers all sit around and brainstorm for ideas about where it will lead. The continuously shout out: "This is great! Someday we'll be able to (blank)".

    Now, take the new piece of software, hardware, or application, and fit it in the blank.

    So, we have "This is great! Someday we will be able to (transmit text only to people who have our particular program)" vs. "This is great! Someday we will be able to (transmit text in a universal format that all systems can understand)"

    Now, to be fair, the MS format might have some advantage over ASCII. What, I don't know. After all, we already have the UTF standard for the handling of foreign character sets, so it can't offer that. So, I challenge anybody to fill in the blank: "This is great! Someday we will be able to (blank)" and put this MS format in a good light.

    I will be amazed if anybody can do that.

    BTW, you may think my little thought experiment is klutzy, but it works much more quickly in my mind than it does when I am trying to explain it on /..

  • I don't know anything about this extension Outlook 2k supposedly uses, but if its based on MIME (as a MIME insertion), then I say leave it alone. If its not, then MS is breaking E-mail standards.

    If it works as a MIME insertion / attachment that Outlook 2k automatically decodes and reads, then fine, those people get to take advantage of that, and other mail readers can ignore it.

  • by Piic ( 146932 )
    True, one can simply tell Outlook to send plain text or HTML, but many people are just too darn lazy.

    It's not the people who know about this type of setting, but who are too lazy to switch it, that bother me. It's the fact that many more people just have no idea that settings like that exist. There are many people with whom I must deal on a daily basis that don't know their computers/software well enough to even use it for their needs, much less understand that settings should be changed from the default. (many are scared of changing things from defaults.)

    Of course at this point we're talking about the mass public, the people who just want to have everything "work"... always. They don't care how or why, it should just work. If it doesn't work, it's a "network error", "the server must be down", or "Windows sucks" (well..)

    ...it's the same phenomenon with people who hear a violent grinding noise every time they hit the brakes on their car, but don't think that it's a "real" problem. (hrm.. now you've gotten me wondering if it is all just laziness...)

  • by Frac ( 27516 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:50AM (#759275)
    I quote from the KB article [microsoft.com]:

    When a message containing TNEF information is received by a mail client that does not understand TNEF, there are three common results:
    The plain text version of the message is received and it contains an attachment named Winmail.dat. The Winmail.dat attachment does not contain any useful information when opened since it is in the special TNEF format.

    The plain text version of the message is received and it contains an attachment with a generic name such as ATT00008.dat or ATT00005.eml. In this case the client is unable to recognize the TNEF part of the message, and is unable to recognize the Winmail.dat file name, so it creates a file name to hold the TNEF information.

    The plain text version of the message is received and the client ignores the Winmail.dat attachment. This is the behavior found in Microsoft Outlook Express. Outlook Express does not understand TNEF, but it does know to ignore TNEF information. The result is a plain text message.

    There is NO MENTION anywhere that non-Outlook users will not get an e-mail. At worse, the message will be received as plain text. (Oh no!)

    Actually, I HOPE that all those servers will strip out the TNEF information, because I'm sick of trying to parse HTML in my own head.

  • I can only assume that you are a fellow Canuck poking fun at the notion of a Canadian doing anything cool [northernjourney.com]...

  • Apple's OS X's default text editor stores data in RTF format.
  • It isn't that people are necessarily just too lazy to set Outlook to only send plain text or HTML, but more likely that they just don't know the option even exists -- or even what TNEF, ASCII, or HTML are. For the vast majority of people, the default settings are all they will ever use. All they know is that they are sending 'e-mail' because that's what the button they clicked on said.
    Therefore, the default options that are enabled should be the most basic, widely used ones. Microsoft apparently feels that the more bloat is enabled at start-up, the more people will be impressed with their product. In fact, it is usually the opposite. Have you ever seen a new user stare in terror at all the little buttons MS Word?
  • Take you centralization of my e-mail content determination, and fuck off.

    Reflect on the fact that you're not using my mail server, and calm the fuck down. That's the other nice thing about open source -- if you don't like a feature, you can always remove it yourself without chewing the developer a new asshole.


  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:55AM (#759304) Homepage
    ASCII is an acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

    There's 225 million American, 5.8 billion other people on this planet, most whom don't speak English and don't write in modified, vowel poor, aplhabets.

    Can you say "ASCII is cutting us off from big potential markets?" Sure... I knew you could...

    Unicode will spread because it's NEEDED.
  • Swedish: a, e, i, o, u, å, ä, ö. And yes, these last three are actual characters in the alphabet.

    ... you forgot "y". A vowel that, together with "u" seems impossible for an english speaker to pronounce the swedish way

  • by Prolog-X ( 233570 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:57AM (#759307)
    As explained at Netscape [netscape.com], These attachments contain only formatting and are not important to the message itself. . Basically, formatted separated from content. I personally think this is a good idea for these reasons:
    • Sections of the text can be extracted without missing an opening or closing tag. In HTML (and other embedded markup languages), excerpts require careful examination of enclosing tags to make sure the tags are closed and opened at the correct locations.
    • Formatting is separated from content. If you don't want to see the formatting, you don't have to. This can also be useful for source code.. maybe you want each comment in your program to appear in italics. The source code itself can be extracted and run without the formatting.
    • There are other pros, too. I believe the Project Xanadu [xanadu.net] lists them somewhere.
  • Actually, this is probably correct. I use Outlook 2000 from home and when I send email to people who don't have Outlook but some generic email program like PINE or Netscape Mail they get an attachment.

    I know this only because I've received several emails where people tell me that they couldn't read the attachment I sent them...and I think to myself - what attachment??? That's right, I didn't send an attachment but the encoded part of the mail message is getting stripped out somehow and ends up as those generic attachments which people can't read.

  • Since this is a new, proprietary format, only MS really knows what it is, and therefor can strip it out. Notice how Exchange is mentioned as "a" possible server that will have this option . . .

    Other mail servers shouldn't be forced to update their code because some child didn't want to play nice . . .


  • by gattaca ( 27954 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:20AM (#759315)
    I must admit, I didn't know exactly what TNEF was, and I got the impression that a few other people who were posting didn't either.

    This is what I found at CSGNetwork's Online Computer, Telephony & Electronics Reference [csgnetwork.com]

    Pronounced tee-neff, and short for Transport Neutral Encapsulation
    Format, a proprietary format used by the Microsoft Exchange and
    Outlook E-Mail clients when sending messages formatted as Rich Text
    Format (RTF). When Microsoft Exchange thinks that it is sending a
    message to another Microsoft E-Mail client, it extracts all the
    formatting information and encodes it in a special TNEF block. It then
    sends the message in two parts - the text message with the formatting
    removed and the formatting instructions in the TNEF block. On the
    receiving side, a Microsoft e-mail client processes the TNEF block and
    re-formats the message. Unfortunately, most non-Microsoft E-Mail
    clients cannot decipher TNEF blocks. Consequently, when you receive a
    TNEF-encoded message with a non-Microsoft e-mail client, the TNEF part
    appears as a long sequence of hexadecimal digits, either in the
    message itself or as an attached file (usually named
    WINMAIL.DAT). These WINMAIL.DAT files serve no useful purpose so you
    can delete them.

    So it's not UNICODE or something like it, it's extra formatting information that, unfortunately, is proprietary.

  • And to take this the further, go join the EFF if you haven't already, step, suppose somone were to circumvent the protections on the TNEF format and write a program that could understand it, would you be liable under the DMCA section on anti-circumvention?

    Since the e-mail was sent to you, that is evidence enough that the sender intended for you to read it. Using software that can understand the format cannot be construed as an attempt to violate the copyright.
  • This about ol2000, not express.
    Grant Chair, Linux Int.
    Pres, SVLUG
  • Users of mutt can retaliate in kind by sending GPG signed messages. Not only do both message and signature appear as MIME attachments (by default), but quoting will throw a bunch of spurious '=', '=20', and similar characters into the bytestream.

    Almost as annoying as getting broken MS shit...but actually useful (you've authenticated yourself as one clueful mofo assh*le), and, believe it or not, fully MIME compliant -- it's the mailer's own damned fault it can't read straight text.

    You can even quote me in responding to those who use inferior mail clients and ask why they your mail is arriving as attachments:

    I don't know. I don't care.

    What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?

  • So I did something I am constantly getting annoyed at, I didn't read close enough the KB article, I submitted the story with the understanding that outlook 2000 was defaulting to not sending plain text at all, when in fact it does send it as part of the larger message.

    That said....I don't consider sending messages fully enclosed within attachments as being standrads compliant and It was my understanding that OL2000 sent the plain text as a tnef attachment. If not, my bad!

    Chris DiBona
    VA Linux Systems

    Grant Chair, Linux Int.
    Pres, SVLUG

  • Jesus f'ing Christ, won't you people ever learn??!!!

    Read the knowledge base article, and you will see:

    A TNEF-encoded message contains a plain text version of the message, and a binary attachment that "packages" various other parts of the original message. In most cases, the binary attachment will be named Winmail.dat, and may include:

    • The formatted text version of the message (font information, colors, and such)
    • OLE objects (embedded pictures, embedded Office documents, and such)
    • Special Outlook features (custom forms, voting buttons, meeting requests, and such)
    • Regular file attachments that were added to the original message
    So what does this mean? You can communicate with an MS-user. You will be able to read his/her messages. The only thing you won't see is the formatted text version of the message. This is really no different from someone sending you multipart mime text+html email. You educate them about it, you move on with your life.
  • by donutello ( 88309 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:03AM (#759339) Homepage
    I've been using Outlook 2000 for a little over a year now. I communicate with a lot of people, including people who use elm as their client. I have hardly ever bothered to change the format of the messages I have sent. I have yet to receive a single complaint about my messages being unreadable. Quite obviously, there isn't a problem.

    As for it supplanting ASCII, what part of "Plain Text is not Rich Text" do I need to explain again?

    This is getting tiresome. Slashdots editors need to take at least the basic steps required to verify a story before rushing to post it just because it gives them a chance to bring out their Bill-Gates-As-The-Borg icon. I don't know, maybe stopping for a second and THINKING about it - Outlook 2000 has been out for more than a year now - wouldn't you have heard about this before if it was true?

    And don't even get me started about the so-called expert who wrote the article in the first place.
  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:24AM (#759342)
    I may be reading a bit much into this paragraph, but it seems to me that this paragraph says 'if your friends can't get your email, it's their servers fault, not yours.

    These extensions have nothing to do with removing plaintext from a message, only producing fancy formating and messages within Outlook (to schedule a meeting, for example). If you send an email to a non-Outlook user they will read it just fine.

    I think this is a classic case of a pseudo-journalist clearly over-stepping his or her boundaries and not properly researching the material. Nothing in Outlook prevents outside users from reading the emails. They just won't recieve the special features Outlook provides within emails (what Eudora would do with a "meeting" tag is beyond me anyway).

  • So richtext is "proprietary" but PDF is perfectly fine?
  • For those that don't know, Outlook was really designed to be run with MS Exchange server. The server can be configured to handle mail translation for it's clients, so internally, an office can have the benefits of a more advanced(?) mail system (in an office workgroup sense), and externally, the world can get ASCII.

    However, Outlook can be used with Unix based TradeServer [bynari.net] from Bynari [bynari.net].

    disclaimer: I do work for Bynari, Inc.

  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:27AM (#759347)
    He is correct. Outlook can be made quite easily to send HTML-only mail. The extensions this [clearly uneducated pseudo-]journalist is talking about only deal with special meeting and scheduling tags used within Outlook. Outside Outlook there would really be no reason to have them (for example, what would KMail use with a "meeting at 2:00 PM" tag?)

    This is more or less a classic example of not getting enough information then placing blame on a non-blameworthy party. Beating up on Microsoft is in fashion, remember (soon it will be beating up on RedHat, then Yahoo, then AMD, etc.). It's a cycle.

  • by MattW ( 97290 ) <matt@ender.com> on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:08AM (#759348) Homepage
    So we could integrate TNEF decoding into mutt. But the question may be: do we want to? I know one person at work who, every time he gets and attachment in word, rtf, visio, etc, always says: send it again in a non-proprietary format. (Text, postscript, pdf) I myself used to force everyone sending me visio diagrams to send them as jpgs. I'm not really interested in legitimizing their changes by making things compatible. (Although I'm sure some people believe in it)

    On a positive note, a couple weeks ago I had a plane flight with a gentleman using gnome/E on his laptop, and it turned out he was a CEO/CTO of a 75-person hardware engineering firm working on cutting edge stuff for chips. Apparently all his people were using "xfig" (which is just what he ran, I've never used it) to diagram their circuits instead of something like visio.
  • by mikpos ( 2397 )
    By default, OL2000 sends plain text *and* TNEF. e.g. if TNEF is *not* stripped out, then Joe Pineuser well get a message that has (a) the plain-text message; and (b) an attachment which will be useless to him. But he can still read the message!

    I could agree that sending plain text + TNEF by default is dumb because it needlessly uses up bandwidth, but it's not the end of the world or anything. Your average Slashdotter, who reads all his mail on an a 40 year-old teletype, will still be able to read them just fine. He just might be kind of annoyed because it takes him 15 seconds to get the message from the IMAP server instead of 5.

  • Please don't mix up 'capable of' and 'designed for'. They are two different things.

    The 'internet-only' mode of Outlook is an afterthought; as is their internet mail. The product was designed as a canned mail system.

    I'm not saying Outlook can't do Internet mail; it does it reasonably well. But it's main purpose, the reason it has all those 'annoying' features is because it was designed to work with other copies of Outlook, and MS Exchange server.

    And no software or technote is an excuse for being an idiot. ;0
  • Huh? The Milgram experiment was where they told people they were giving subjects dangerous electric shocks. In reality, the subjects were actors and the people doing the shocking were the subject of the experiment.

    How does this relate? Other than the fact that I used the imperetive "apply this rule", I see not even the slightest connection to the Milgram experiment. I certainly hold /. readers in higher regard than to expect that they will apply the rule simply because I told them.

    In the Milgram experiment, the willingness of the participants to shock the alleged victims was partially attributed to the fact that the people running the experiment were associated with a respected university. I, on the other hand, am just a guy on /..

  • How is TNEF superior to ASCII for conveying information?

    If I have a message I can certainly write the text to convey that message. Include a link? I can do that as well by merely typing in the link...

    Attachments can handle images, HTML, etc. I think what should be done with outlook is have it send both "real" and TNEF versions of it's mail (actually forget the TNEF) :) and just let people read the format the want (I think most mailers that send fancy mail also include a text attachment by default, thank Bob). The fact is that ASCII is pretty much the common denominator as far as interpersonal communications. You need to ask yourself what is more important: the message or it's presentation? Most people would agree it is the message.

  • YAM does. It appears to parse on a line-by-line basis to avoid the "whole message in italics" thing you describe. And the feature can be turned off.

    Just one problem: the mailer in question is for the Amiga.
  • by paRcat ( 50146 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:24AM (#759361)
    I may be reading a bit much into this paragraph

    Appartently, yes. This is the first time I've ever sided with Microsoft. I've been using Outlook 2000 at work for about a year now. I've never changed the default way of sending messages. I have many friends who use *nix, in fact I've emailed myself and recieved the mail on my Linux box.

    I've never had this problem, ever.

    you may quote me
  • A shame the moderators can't actually check veracity before giving +4: Informative. And a shame Netscape can get this so badly wrong.

    WINMAIL.DAT includes *everything* other than plain text. This includes formatting information, but it also includes any attachments you might have sent.

    Worse, WINMAIL.DAT cannot be decoded, even by Outlook on a Macintosh.

    So, Outlook doesn't only send only to other Outlook users - it sends only to other Outlook users on the PC.

    But since it's an option you can turn off, it's hardly worth complaining about.

    It's a .88 magnum -- it goes through schools.

  • ol2k is not the problem. it's exchange. where i work, we have use outlook2k+exchange. well, everyone but the developers. we use pine.

    my main beef with exchange is how it silently converts all attachments to APPLICATION/X-MS-TNEF. yes, ALL attachments. if i send a mime attachment from pine to another pine user, the attachement comes as X-MS-TNEF. joy.

    as far as i know, ol2k (while irritating) has never approached this level of insidious behavior.

    my favorite was when the exchange server complained because i was using `ISO8859-1' charset, while it was using `US-ASCII' or some other similarly wrong setup. so it encoded the body of my message in a tnef attachment.
  • Since the e-mail was sent to you, that is evidence enough that the sender intended for you to read it. Using software that can understand the format cannot be construed as an attempt to violate the copyright.

    No, no. This isn't a matter of copyright violation. The problem is that the software you would use to read the message was a circumvention device and the provider was trafficking in circumvention devices. Which is illegal even if every single actual use of the software happens to be legal.
  • by Prolog-X ( 233570 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:26AM (#759369)
    is here [freshmeat.net].
  • So we could integrate TNEF decoding into mutt. But the question may be: do we want to?

    No, but only because integrating it into the MTA is probably a better choice because it centralizes the modifications. Modifying every MUA in the world to handle MS extensions would be a misdirection of effort.

    And of course we want to be able to handle whatever crap MS spews at us. We work all the time for higher levels of interoperability, and just because the thing we're trying to interoperate with is from MS doesn't matter in my book. Should we ditch Samba just because SMB is a proprietary protocol? Hardly.

    Yes, it would be better if MS (and about fifty lesser software companies) played nice with everyone else, but it's questionable whether they ever will because they don't perceive it as being in the best interest of their profits, and it may not be. Ergo, we must learn to cope. And that's not a bad thing, because it just makes open source look better and it serves our users better while defanging the predatory companies that try to pull this crap on us. In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to, but this is not an ideal world.


  • Hm. I never knew there was a town named Arrogance, Mississippi. Maybe it's kinda like Mars, Pennsylvania.
  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:13AM (#759381)
    "For those that don't know, Outlook was really designed to be run with MS Exchange server. "

    This design philosophy is at the heart of micros~1, and it's the reason ms isn't allowed in many server rooms.

    It's this ignorant disregard for other systems on a network, and the desire to force customers to change all other systems to an ms system, that just pisses people off.

    ms hasn't added a single feature, in recent years, that hasn't *first* bolstered their position of power and dominance *before* considering conectivity, stability,security, useability and, the satisfaction of their customers, *second*.

    Yes, it's this kind of thinking that got them a monopoly, and yes it's this kind of thinking that continues to allow them to abuse that monopoly, but I wasn't put on this planet to increase that companies visibility and position in the market, and I believe that people are starting to wake up to that fact (whitnessed by the pitifull w2k sales).

  • What was that Macallum quote,"The medium is the message."?

    Close! It was Marshall McLuhan [utoronto.ca], a Canadian, who said that. He was a proponent of the Global Village, etc. Had some neat ideas...

  • background: I'm currently researching this area for my company. We're trying to create a nice MS Independent infrastructure, moving away from MS Mail 3.2 post office (Using Windows Messaging/Schedule+ clients).


    There are a number of standards to consider.

    • IMAP seems to be the thing for LAN based e-mail as it allows folders to remain on the server, shared folders etc.
    • LDAP The directory service to use. Allows you to create your own internal directory and seamlessly integrate with external directories (in a way not dissimilar to DNS)
    • VCard This is the standard for the exchange of e-mail address and other information
    • VCal ASCII representation of a meeting (start, end time, location etc). A Vcal message can be mailed to someone, and then stored in their diary
    • Calendar server If you want to look at other user's diaries then you need a calendar server. There are no open standards for this - however there does seem to be an IETF Draft - with input from both Microsoft and Netscape, which is interesting.

    Non standards Currently, scheduling/caldendar information is handled by most products in a closed way. Examples of this are MS Exchange and Notes and Netscape Calendar server


    • IMAP Currently there is the University of Washington IMAP server (included with redhat) which supports both POP3 and IMAP. I've been using this so far but am looking at Cyrus-imapd from CMU?. This seems to be much more manageable and has some nice integration features with sendmail. There is a red hat contributed version. Search on freshmeat - there is also a commercial server free on Linux for up to 250 users... Non-Linux MS Exchange 5.5 can expose its data via POP3/IMAP,LDAP. Netscape also have a range of servers which do the same and may be ported to linux one day.
    • LDAP OpenLDAP seems to be the place to go to get the patched version of the UMICH LDAP server. (Netscape and Exchange will also do this). Calendar Servers There aren't any. Gnome/Balsa has made some mention of one but nothing developed. You can either wait or use MS or Netscape on NT.... or go and help develop it. Clients
    • Netscape Communicator 4.7 supports the key standards. The professional version (available but costs money) supports calendaring. I've not tried the professional version but am using Communicator at the moment. I not happy with it though (too big, slow, clumsy and buggy). Haven't tried Mozzilla or 4.5PR2 though. Web Interface There are at least two web front ends to IMAP servers. Not tried these yet though. Not seen a good calendar implementation either. KDE KMail doesn't support IMAP. Korganizer looks good. Supports VCal so you can receive and send meeting requests. It is still fairly early on but seems usable. I am starting to use this for my desktop diary. It is better than ICal. Gnome Balsa is probably the application to track.. but seems to be very early yet. Others XMail I've tried but don't like the interface. StarOffice 4.0 has a e-mail client which understands IMAP, but no diary. StarOffice 5.0 might do?. However StarOffice requires a pretty powerful machine to run it on. Mozilla might offer an alternative but again development seems in its early stages. Running an MS client under Wine might be an option...

    Conclusions The Windows world is far better served than the Linux world in this area. At least Today. In our company (around 12 people) we will probably use: Cyrus and OpenLDAP (rather than Exchange) for the servers, Netscape Communicator and KOrganizer for the linux desktops, Outlook 2000 for the MS Desktops. The Group diary will probably be a big shared file served up a web server into which every one records their key appointments - Or publishes their diaries as HTML or whatever.

  • by Kyobu ( 12511 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:40AM (#759388) Homepage
    Granted, this wouldn't be astoundingly great, and it wouldn't offer solutions for font specification, spacing, etc., but why doesn't someone make a client that interprets *text* as text and _text_ as text? Those are commonly recognized shorthands that have existed for many years. Of course, the client would have to check to see whether there was a matching character, otherwise you'd get whole messages italicized when someone was using an asterisk for something else. But as long as it was turn-off-able, I don't see any major problems with this scheme.
  • He never said FILTER. In fact, the way I read it he was talking about CONVERTING to a more common/well-accepted attachment format server-side. That (or, at a minimum, having the mail server expose such functionality) actually makes good sense.
  • So why is it that if you fill the memory with FF, you find more FF's in the TNEF data and when you fill the memory with 00 you find more 00 in the TNEF data? Is this leaking out uninitlized memory?

    How about a TNEF virus? It looks like it could be abused that way.
  • I think it's available here:

    http://world.std.com/~damned/software.ht ml [std.com]

    I have never actually used this though...


  • Furthermore, when getting an HTML message OL can't show it in-line: you have to open it as an attachment, whereby IE springs up to life. This pisses me off even more than "Outlook rich text" default (which is the first thing I change whenever I get to install the beast).
  • by rabababoa ( 86240 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @07:29AM (#759402)
    In Outlook2000 there are three message formats..

    1 - Plain text, yay, it works great, and everyone can read it

    2 - HTML, Great! Most can read it just fine! Netscape users too!

    3 - Rich Text, Now unless your a complete fscking idiot, doesent this just scream M$ word all over it?

    Im as linux suportive as the next guy.. But...

    This was a 100% complete worthless article, which was only posted because this man is "a highly devoted linux advocate". Its sad that stuff like this gets posted...

    I suppose next we're going to complain that exe files dont run properly on linux, and that MS hasnt made them run on WINE..
  • But this is really the first non-flaming writing opposing MS that I've seen our favorite evangalist do. Nicely done Chris.
  • Just a couple of weeks ago, I and a few others had the sysadmin at our work turn off an option in Exchange server that automaticly attaches a HTML copy of the email to each email. Unfortunatly some mailing-list services (mostly web-based) interpreted only the HTML part, sending everyone on the list HTML copies of the mail (with ads). It appears this option is turned on by default in Exchange.
    Quite anoying.

    / The Arrow
  • In several years of e-mail admin I have to say that MS e-mail clients are both the most error-prone and the least error-tolerant that I have encountered. This means that they are more likely to have problems with each other's messages than cause problems for others.

    Some examples:

    1. The "begin " bug where any line in a message that starts "begin " is treated as the start of a uuencoded attachment, the rest of the message becoming the attachment title. Affects several versions of OE.
    2. Outlook 97 sometimes forgets to send the final terminating full stop (period) to mark the end of a message (especially if the last line of the message ends in a full stop). Some mail systems will reject the unfinished message - and Outlook will give the sender no notification that this has happened. Others will accept the message - but if the recipient also has Outlook 97 then it will lock up trying to download the message. No other mail client will have this problem.
    3. If the "Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary=" line in a message is word-wrapped then all the Outlook and OE versions I have so far seen will not be able to decode the message - even though they themselves will word-wrap this line in the messages they send.
    All the *nix mail clients I have used are robust enough to ignore these errors. Its the MS clients that can't cope with the errors caused by MS clients.
  • Unicode.org [unicode.org] has charts of the entire Unicode codespace (yes, including Chinese) in both PDF and HTML formats. There's also an ISO/IEC standard that mirrors the Unicode standard. Heck, the Unicode book (over 1,000 pages) is only $50, less than the cost of many college textbooks half the size.
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • PostScript is a trademark of Adobe Systems, but Aladdin Enterprises (not the StuffIt maker [aladdinsys.com]) has produced a portable GPL'd PostScript interpreter and tools called the GhostScript [gnu.org] package. It even includes the GhostView PDF viewer for those platforms that have X11 [x.org] server [xfree86.org]s.
    ( \
    XGNOME vs. KDE: the game! [8m.com]
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @11:16AM (#759418)
    I'm not the author, just someone who keeps this around every time some blithering twit sends me a heaping shitpile of LottaSnots or Outhouse 2000 dreck.

    Original post is Message-ID {x67lk4bzvw.fsf@kharendaen.krall.org} from 30 Oct 1999 - and may still be on Dejanews.

    Back in the day, we had something like that, only we called it fortune(7). Uphill. Both ways. In the snow.

    And the reality of cubemail is far from interesting. Basically, there was this thing called email. It lets you send text to people, and with some slight cleverness, arbitrary files. And anyone who has any kind of email MUA can read and send mail to any other such person. Email is a Good Thing (though implementations, being software, suck). Email is _not_ a result of someone looking at a vaguely useful idea and then asking "what can I add?" until all the resources on a state-of-the-art machine are used up.

    Cubemail is kind of like email, except the idea is that you never send plain boring ol' text, because text is only useful if you happen to have something interesting to say, which cubemail users don't. Instead, you send huge blocks of drek encoded in some idiotic proprietary way, so you can only write to people who happen to have exactly the same flavor of cubemail you do. As an added bonus, it is much less reliable and more consumptive of shared resources than email. But, by Glub, you can use exciting k-rad fonts and colors, which is the whole point of sending something to someone, nyet?

    Bloatus Notes is probably the canonical example of cubemail. (The name "cubemail" derives from the fact the the lusers who perpetrate it inhabit cubes.)

    The other added bonus is that cubemail tends to be part of some big monolithic integrated package that does one thing halfway decently (if you're lucky), everything else in the universe badly, and forces you to take the lot as an all-or-nothing package. And of course, you have to do everything interactively; there's no concept of scripting or composing primitives.

    This is why cubemail sucks. This is also why cubemail is a favorite amongst corporate smegheads who long ago had the blood supply to their brain cut off by wearing ties.

    ObOb: We have one customer who uses email, but insists on sending everything as an attached "AmiPro" word processor file. So, they have essentially created cubemail by hand. And O what fun we all had scrambling around trying to figure out what AmiPro even fscking *is* and where to get a copy and where did I put that copy of Mess-DOS 6.2 so I can run it?

    And if the PHB doesn't get it after that, I follow Paul Tomblin's advice (also found in alt.sysadmin.recovery):
    "The PROPER way to handle HTML postings is to cancel the article, then hire a hitman to kill the poster, his wife and kids, and fuck his dog and smash his computer into little bits. Anything more is just extremism."
  • It's rather nice that the recipients get the message in plain text, but what you forgot to mention here is that certain attachments are also embedded in the winmail.dat so they're not readable without OL2000.
  • by rjh3 ( 99390 ) on Saturday September 23, 2000 @08:53AM (#759423)
    Most Unix mail clients are able to support ISO-8859. Now, ISO 8859-1 (Western European) is almost ASCII for the first 128 characters. So a great many people say "ASCII" when they should say ISO 8859-1. As for why "American", well the Americans got their standardization act together much sooner than ISO (on this issue). The ASCII characterset is almost correct for Western European languages, and the spelling errors that result from using it do not cause confusion. It was tolerable while ISO worked out the rest of the issues for small alphabet languages. (In fact the international standard at the time was the Baudot characters dating way back to the days of the telegraph. Baudot was a small subset of the ASCII characterset, yet used for all international telegrams.)

    These days, any decent mailer on Unix is capable of support all the ISO 8859 components: 8859-1 through 8859-10 at least. People still (incorrectly) call this 8bit text format ASCII. But by covering 8859 you have included Europe, North and South America, Australia, for native languages. Since English, Russian, and French are also official languages (or defacto languages) for much of Africa and Asia, you have pretty good coverage. Only East Asia is lacking support. In fact, many mailers (at least the ones that I use) are also JIS capable, so that intermixed 8859 and JIS is presented properly. This covers Japan. So the bulk of the worlds computer users are supported.

    Unicode will spread, but much more slowly. The diffence between Unicode and 8859-x is much smaller. The win is in the Asian languages and other languages with really large charactersets. But Unicode made some unfortunate political errors. They angered the Japanese (somehow) and the Japanese still insist that the JIS standards be used rather than Unicode. (I've been in those standards meetings. If you bother to ask the Japanese you learn that they despise Unicode.) The Chinese and others seem more indifferent.

    And when you say Unicode you really must decide what you mean. Do you mean Unicode, UTF-7, or UTF-8. And which Unicode? The defective 1.0, the revised 2.0, or the next 3.0?

    I forsee 8859 surviving for a while further. UTF-8 is a nicer encoding, but it has this political baggage and its own set of problems.

  • I don't disagree that a multi-alphabet system is necessary. What I do disagree with is the "vowel poor" part of your message. In hiragana for instance (the alphabet that is primarily used in Japanese) there are 5 vowels and every character has those vowels attached to it (a i u e o, ka ki ku ke ko, sa shi su se so, ...). In cyrillic (the alphabet Russian is written in) there are also 5 vowels. In the Greek alphabet there are also 5 base vowels (which are combined among each other into dipthongs to allow for further vowel sounds). In Turkish there are, suprise, 5 vowels as well, although they are modified by punctuation marks to extend the range of vowel sounds representable. But in all of these alphabets there are 5 base vowels. I don't have any familiarity with them, but I've heard that Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, ...) use only special marks to denote vowel sounds, foregoing full characters altogether. Ancient Egyptian, to my knowledge, also forewent actual vowels, leaving up to the reader to fill in the vowel sounds and only occasionally leaving clues. I won't disagree that ASCII is a limiting factor, just make sure you give good arguments or facts to support those arguments if you're trying to convince people that may in fact disagree. If you know any alphabets that have more than 5 base vowels (by that I mean there are more than 5 actual characters to represent distinct vowel sounds) I'd be curious to know. Thanks

  • Hmm.. if Real Audio crashes Windows, it's Microsofts fault. If an email from Outlook crashes Netscape, it's Microsofts fault too. I think I'm beginning to see how this works.

    On a more serious note, how do you guys live with yourselves? How about considering that these are just people trying to make the best possible product - sometimes doing a good job of it and at other times cutting corners and making mistakes. The world is not all black and white.
  • I'm just saying that I'm free from the proprietarizing clutches of Microsoft's Revenue Enhancement team (otherwise known as Micro$haft).

"I have just one word for you, my boy...plastics." - from "The Graduate"